While talented piano and violin players have the opportunity to take lessons for credit through the music department, students who play the wayang are out of luck. But members of the Yale World Music organization hope to encourage a better appreciation of music from all cultures and to expand the scope of learning in Yale’s Music Department beyond Western culture.
Yale World Music President Claire Owen ’04 started the organization in the spring of last year. An international student from France, Owen said she was surprised that for all of its diversity, Yale’s international music department was extremely limited.
“The music department at Yale tends to be conservative and very Western music-oriented,” Owen said. “Yale World Music is not just an undergraduate organization but a reflection of a wider structural change that should happen at Yale.”
Sakiko Seo ’04, the group’s treasurer, said she hopes that Yale World Music will offer students a centralized way to share their interest in international music.
“We want to provide opportunities for students to experience various music that they would not have had interests in before, or did not know of its existence,” Seo said.
The Department of Music, led by Director of Undergraduate Studies Eric Drott, has been very supportive of the group, providing it with direct financial support and encouraging the members to keep going with their ideas, Owen said.
“I think that this is a wonderful initiative on the part of the students involved,” Drott said. “One that will doubtlessly foster a fuller and more profound awareness of the different music traditions that span the globe.”Ê
Presently, only one ethnomusicology professor, Michael Veal, is employed at Yale. But Music Department chair Patrick McCreless said the department plans to search for a new ethnomusicologist whom it hopes to bring to campus by the fall of 2005, pending administrative approval.
“We consider developing a more global perspective on music an especially high priority for the department,” he said.
One option Yale World Music is pursuing is to expand the existing lessons-for-credit system to include international instruments. If interest in or funding for such classes is lacking, the group has proposed an exchange program with Wesleyan University, which has one of the best ethnomusicology departments in the nation.
“When you see people who are so talented but can’t get lessons for credit while others can, it’s really a pity,” Owen said.
Publicity coordinator Jennifer Gardner ’05 said she and the other board members agree with Owen that on a campus full of international students, it makes sense to study music from around the globe.
“Once people hear our music and see how cool it is to have people from all over the world who bring their music with them, then it becomes a reality,” Gardner said.
The board of Yale World Music consists of both American and international students, most of whom have previous experience with international music. Concert coordinator Genevieve Tauxe ’07 said the group is planning shows that she hopes will expose and involve more novices in the international music scene.
“Out goal is to bring together as many people on campus who are interested in world music as we can,” she said.
The group is hosting a Wesleyan wayang performance this Friday at 8 p.m. in the Branford Common Room as well as a dance party featuring Sonido Unidad and the Klezmer Band this Saturday at 10 p.m. in Morse and Stiles dining hall.